Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation, “Extraordinary Women Change the World.” In our last post, Dusti Arab challenged the cultural narrative around motherhood. Today, goddess extraordinaire, Shann Vander Leek shares her journey of finding the goddess within.
Fresh from a relaxing hot bubble bath I marvel at my healthy form and am thankful for learning how to appreciate my divine feminine body. I love my Shann-ness: curvaceous, soft and strong.
I haven’t always felt this way. Years ago, I had very little body-mind awareness. The disconnect had to do with overindulging in my former high-stress career, mind numbing drama, rich restaurant food, and partying like a rock star on the weekends. Thankfully, motherhood and getting involved with coaching, martial arts, and yoga helped me walk away from a career and bloated lifestyle which no longer suited me.
While lost in my career aspirations, I lost respect for my feminine physical being. Always a chameleon, I morphed into the predominately male culture in which I was immersed. I played golf, drank the finest wine and even enjoyed smoking expensive cigars. I could be arrogant, mouthy and closed off to my natural feminine nature. It never occurred to me to flaunt being a bright, soulful and funny woman. I was hiding out like a child under the coffee table with the need to be steeped in 100% warrior energy.
I once worked a highly demanding job during the day, complemented by mind-numbing evenings in front of the TV. I was physically inactive with the exception of weekend adventures. Escalating body weight and over-the-top migraine headaches finally got my attention. I was out of touch with the body I’d kicked to the curb. My priority became taking an inventory of my life and consciously creating a new way of living. I was in desperate need of self-care. Can you relate?
A New Way of Living
A friend recommended yoga as a healthy activity to lower my stress levels and get in touch with my body again. I sampled a class and from the first relaxing breath to the final shavasana, I was hooked. Practicing yoga dramatically began to improve my life. In the years I have been interested in, studying and currently teaching luscious living yoga playshops; I have reinvented myself and learned to rock my Goddess life.
My personal recipe to empower the Goddess within includes creating a feminine environment, getting my creative on, honoring my body, practicing yoga, engaging in community, and getting unplugged.
The first step to rocking my Goddess life began with the creation of a luxurious feminine environment. I adorned the walls with a collection of artwork and personal landscape photographs. I promised to keep fresh flowers in the house at all times. I created a beautiful feminine alter showcasing love notes, images of my daughter, and special treasures. My feminine space is spiritual, colorful, and exotic. I regularly spray lavender in the room for a calming effect or lemongrass when I want to wake up my senses. Burning Japanese incense is a favorite ritual for meditation, and freshening a stale room.
I love to create vision boards and collages including images that represent my immediate desires. Choosing the images and bold graphics from my favorite magazines and crafting each project is fun. My most current collage is filled with images of spring flowers, art glass, the tail of a beautiful whale flashing out of the sea, the Dalai Lama smiling, and the Napali coastline. The phrases included are “A Force of Nature” and “Joyful Wisdom”. Not into clipping magazines? Pinterest is perfect for creating digital vision boards like the transformation goddess vision board I created here.
Honor Your Body
I honor my body with regular massage therapy. Massage is not a luxury””it is my feminine right to create time for and receive body work. The benefits of massage therapy include lowering stress, deep relaxation, and improved circulation. Part of rocking my Goddess life also includes enjoying a soak in the tub several times each week. I love the calming energy of a delightful bubble bath. Bathing is a sacred ritual. A divine space complete with candles, incense, soothing music or a good book to read. Honoring my body also includes eating whole foods, raw foods, and being conscious of what I put in my body. Today marks the 95th day of an 120 day experiment living without sugar and refined carbs. I am sleeping better and have energy to burn. I’m not sure what will happen after 120 days but I suspect I will continue making better nutritional choices.
Nurturing my body, mind, and soul with a regular yoga practice helps me get in touch with who I am on a deeper level. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself through restorative poses. Tuning into my breath and how I feel while moving my body is a gift. Practicing yoga improves my body consciousness and helps me remain flexible and peaceful. I delight in teaching yoga playshops to women in desperate need of retreat time.
Be Kind to Yourself
Positive self talk is one of my favorite weapons to combat disempowering, masochistic mental commentary. My ego mind can be an unruly playground filled with bullies, tattletales, and monsters under the bed. When I am feeling battered by the schoolyard bully, positive self-talk is my magic weapon. I am no longer willing to live in a guilt-ridden shame pit created by the harsh judgement of my ego. When I am emotionally drained or feeling insecure, I practice an internal dialogue like: “I approve of myself” or “All is well, I am safe.” Positive self-talk is a big part of my feminine confidence. Witnessing my internal dialogue teaches me to practice nonviolent communication with myself and the world at large.
Engage in Community
Engaging in community is a slow growing process for me. I am an introvert and generally prefer to be left to my own devices. Allowing new people in to my life can still be uncomfortable. I sometimes think, “What if they see me for who I really am and don’t like what they see?” We all love to be loved. Stepping out feels risky, but I do it anyway. I’m grateful for the chance to to immerse myself in community through my playshop offerings. This year I committed to a year-long women’s circle. Talk about vulnerability. Wowza.
It is essential to regularly get unplugged from my highly connected virtual environment. I create an oasis of time each day to get out into the natural world. My mental clarity improves when I commit to hiking along a woodland trail or beach combing the shores of Lake Michigan. When I’m freaking out about having too much on my plate, I make it a priority to step away from the madness for awhile to soak up the sweetness of the day.
Not too long ago my inner Goddess was crying out for attention. I am so glad I listened. I am empowered and grateful to rock my Goddess life.
How will you honor yourself today? Are you ready to transform your life and coax your inner Goddess out of hiding? She’s been waiting for you.
About Shann: Successful television advertising maven turned transformation enthusiast, yogini, and author of Life on Your Terms. Shann Vander Leek is the founder of True Balance International, co-founder of Anxiety Slayer, and creator of the Transformation Goddess Experience. Unconventional and delightfully curious; she inspires professional women in transition to live life on their terms while creating more balance in their lives through transition coaching, self-care and creative expression. Check out her luscious new offering for women who are ready to reclaim their feminine sovereignty at www.transformationgoddess.com. Connect with Shann on Twitter: @shannvanderleek
Angela Wheeler says
Shann, I’m so appreciative of you sharing your story about empowerment. You’ve got a great story to tell and one that many women need to hear today. It’s an easy habit to get into…trying to stay on top in the business world and not paying attention to your body, mind, and soul.
Thank you for sharing some of the ways that you have found to be helpful to let the goddess within shine! Reading them has helped me to re-affirm the changes I am making in my own life and re-center on what matters.
@Angela Wheeler Thanks for asking me to share my personal empowerment story. I’m jazzed that you feel supported by these transformational self-care rituals. Big LOVE!
Lisa Marie Rosati says
Shann, I simply LOVED this article. As always your beautiful heart and true loving nature traveled to me using your words of wisdom as its divine vessel. I love that you are continuing to honor yourself, your body and your Divine Feminine Nature. You will help light the way for many women who are still suffering with a disconnection from the Goddess that lives within them. Thank you for sharing some of your personal rituals with us. You Rock Sister Goddess and I think you’re FABULOUS!!!!
@Lisa Marie Rosati Thanks Lisa! It’s an honor to support women who do too much. A pleasure to help them put themselves first, learn to live in their bodies, and love themselves just as they are.
Amanda Machina says
awesome. this is what i’ve found as well.
yay! love this post Shann…….great tips…and so important! thx for spreading your message 🙂
@GinaRafkind Thank you for your kindness Gina. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. We deserve to take better care of ourselves! 🙂
Loran Hills says
There are so many things to integrate into life that will help us feel more divine. Thanks for creating a useful list, Shann! Being kinder to myself is one thing I’m always working on.
@Loran Hills My pleasure Loran. Being gentle with yourself is such a blessing.
Jo Macdonald says
This is a beautiful and inspiring list Shann and gave me a much needed boost today as I am trying to kick a horrible cold! You have reminded me to listen to my body and take time out when needed instead of relentlessly pushing on. thanks x
@Jo Macdonald Thanks Jo. I hope you are feeling better soon.
Maria Fatima Hernandez says
I love the tips, especially the tips about honoring your body,being kind to yourself, and getting unplugged. I also make sure that I get a massage, say positive things to myself everyday and just be in touch with nature on weekends.
@Maria Fatima Hernandez Hi Maria, It’s amazing how much better you feel when you choose to tap into self-care and make time to play in your natural surroundings? Goddess goodness.
I enjoyed this so much – what wonderful tips! I’m printing this out as a reminder and inspiration, because there are a couple of them I really need to put more focus on right now than what I’m currently doing. Thank you!
Thank you Gin. I’m tickled that you are inspired to rock your Goddess life!
Ah I love this post and this empowering story. We really need rolemodels for that kind of living. So we simply can´t read enough of them to remind us to stay on track. Thanks.
@NoraAmala Thank you Nora. I am grateful to shine a light on the intrinsic value of self-study, self-care, sacred ritual, and transformational coaching for women who do too much.
What an interesting article! Just in the past several years I have realized that femininity does not have to equal timidness/weakness. It’s ok, no, actually it’s necessary to take care of that Goddess within.
@AmandaAC1 Thanks Amanda. I’m so happy that you are caring for your precious and divine feminine self.